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By Roman Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA, PAFM on October 6, 2020 minute read

Is remote work the new normal for accounting firms?

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When you think of remote work, what comes to mind?

For auditors and consultants, it’s working on the road at client offices, airports and hotels. For tax managers, it’s most likely reviewing returns late at night and on the weekends. For client accounting services personnel, it is going out to the client site to install applications or connecting to their computer through a remote-control application (such as GoToMyPC, LogMeIn or Join.me). For admin personnel, it was, “What? I don’t work remotely.”

Then BAM! Along comes COVID and virtually overnight, ALL WORK, not just the departmental applications, gets pushed into a remote work environment…your home.

For firms that previously formalized their remote work programs and had all their applications cloud-enabled it was a fairly smooth transition and work continued on pretty much the same with added benefits of remote collaboration. However, for those firms without a firmwide remote work program (which it turns out was the majority), the legacy of their disparate users, solutions, and processes utilized by their departments caused noticeable disruption, resulting in various degrees of work inefficiency and a desire to “get back to the office as soon as possible.” We heard from such firms that they could not easily access the files they needed to complete work, they could not collaborate with staff as easily as walking down the hall, and they could not easily find out the status of client projects.

Studies highlight the differences in remote work productivity

To further highlight the differences between firms with and without a remote work process, one recent accounting journal touted: “63% of workers and managers say productivity has risen or stayed same since COVID”¹ while another concurrently stated: “62% of accounting firm leaders say their firm’s productivity has decreased and 26% say it has stayed the same by more staff working from home.”²

Huh? How do you reconcile such differences in findings?

Well, we attribute these differences to firms that already had all their applications and processes managed digitally and available through the cloud and those that lacked a firmwide concept and only promoted remote solutions needed by their individual departments. The reality is that those firms with a formal program have experienced significant competitive advantages, including overall firm/client collaboration, availability of personnel at their convenience, global access to work, and improved flextime opportunities for work/life balance. These firms see these benefits as their “new normal,” while those that had a poor experience and fought the inevitable transformation will mostly go back to their old way of doing things.

Think about it…if remote work is not part of your new normal, now is a great time to step back and take a look at what you’ve been missing and decide what you will do about it.

¹ CPA Practice Advisor-June 29, 2020

² Accounting Today, July 7, 2020

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